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Video: Whiz kid gets into 7 Ivy Leagues

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TODAY contributor
updated 6/18/2008 9:05:03 AM ET 2008-06-18T13:05:03

Lukasz Zbylut has taken “the old college try” to a whole new level.

The New York teenager, who emigrated from Poland only five years ago, applied to seven Ivy League schools — and was accepted by every one of them.

Now he’s thrilled to further his education at his “dream school” of choice — Harvard. What, Yale wasn’t good enough for him? How about Princeton?

“I do feel sorry, and I feel awful for turning down such great institutions,” Zbylut told TODAY co-hosts Matt Lauer and Meredith Vieira. “But it’s Harvard.”

Among the other schools he declined were Columbia, Dartmouth, Penn, Cornell, Georgetown, Stanford and New York University.

There were 10 other prominent schools that also accepted the ever-smiling 18-year-old. But he knew he could only pick one.

“It’s a great feeling to have,” Zbylut added. “And it’s very exciting — and confusing, to an extent.”

A class act
Lukasz Zbylut (pronounced Loo-KASH Zbeh-LOOT) was in seventh grade when he came to the United States. At that point, he admits, he had only a limited grasp of the English language.

“It’s quite amazing that the first words you learn in any language are the curses,” Zbylut said with a laugh. “It’s ‘thank you’ and the curses. Someone should study that at some point. But I’ve come a long way since then.”

Zbylut said the transition to attending school in the U.S. was “easier than expected.”

“Schools in Poland are very rigorous, as you can imagine,” he said. “When taking my first exam, I was constantly turning to the girl next to me because in Poland, [testing] is very collaborative. Here, it’s the opposite.”

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In addition to holding such high grades, Zbylut is co-captain of his school’s United Nations team; founder of its debate team; president of its mock-trial team and editor of the school newspaper. And, just for kicks, he plays soccer.

With such credentials, Lauer asked, why did Zbylut apply to so many schools when he knew he’d be accepted to so many of them?

“That isn’t really true, especially the last decade,” Zbylut explained. “[It’s] very competitive. We’re into the single digits when it comes to acceptance rates.

“I thought of myself as a great candidate, but I was never certain of getting into a single one college.”

Zbylut plans to study politics, law and philosophy at Harvard. But there was one school that actually did turn him down — the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Zbylut said he didn’t mind the snub.

“I really don’t regret it, because I would never be as passionate as a student they potentially could have given the spot to,” he said. “I’m hoping that the spot they gave would have been to someone who is very passionate about politics and everything.”

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